BZ's El Centro 2010 Gallery

Photo Gallery

Over the winter months, the Blue Angels train at NAF El Centro, California. It is here that they kicked off their 2010 air show season with a one day air show!

It was nice to be at an air show again, and I really looked forward to trying out my new lenses. The lighting there was excellent for pictures, but the winds unfortunately started blowing really hard and caused a few acts to be cancelled. What's more, the gusting winds made it really tough to track the planes properly as it caused me to bobble the camera unpredictably. The winds were so strong some of the porta pottys got blown over (I hope nobody was inside when that happened!). But all in all, it was a great show to kick off the 2010 season!

Nikon D300 w/ 11-16mm Tokina, 150-500mm Sigma OS lenses. Nikon D200 w/ 18-105mm VR lens.
The 150-500mm Sigma lens by the way, is a monster to hand hold all day. My arms (plus the rest of the body) were beat! I was pretty happy with the images though! - Bernard Zee

There was an EA-6B Prowler on static display there. Pretty big plane up close. Still in use for electronic countermeasures, but scheduled to be replaced by an F-18 version called the Growler.

The LA Coast Guard brought out their HH-65 Dauphin helicopter, which they use for search and rescue.

This is of course, the Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II.

They didn't demo it at this show, but the Harrier is quite the sight to see when doing vertical take offs and landings. Loud and super obnoxious too!

Thought I'd throw in this alien looking probe thing shot from the rear of the Harrier.

Here's a Navy HH-60 helicopter.

Talked with LTJG Stephen Defazio for a bit about what it's like flying the helicopter, and the challenges of trying to land on a ship in rolling seas. Stephen is undergoing training at the Fleet Replacement Squadron, and will be assigned to a active duty squadron after training completes.

Here's an artsy shot of the helicopter, which has an updated all digital display cockpit.

Beale AFB brought out their gloss black T-38 trainer.

This paint scheme is unique to Beale (and the movie Top Gun! :-), and is sort of a reflection of the black spy planes that fly out of there.

A newcomer to the air show circuit is this freshly restored B-25, 'Maid in the Shade'.

'Maid in the Shade' is from the Arizona wing of the CAF, and flies again after a 28 year restoration effort! That's some amazing dedication and a lifetime of hard work right there.

Also at the show is this P-51 Mustang 'Wee Willy II'.

A frontal view of the beautifully restored B-25. Looks to be in mint condition!

A favorite of many a Vietnam Veteran, the AD Skyraider often provided accurate and much needed close air support. It's an awesome plane to see close up and in the air!

The T-45 Goshawk is a 2 seater advanced jet trainer used by the Navy.

A workhorse of the U.S. Navy, the CH-46 Sea Knight is a tandem rotor medium lift helicopter.

I believe it's a Navy T-44 Pegasus. Military version of the Beechcraft King Air.

Free falling in formation to start off the show, are the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Parachute Demonstration Team "Black Daggers".
Here's a unique perspective on a 2 person stack with the U.S. Flag. They kept connected almost all the way to the ground!

Even early in the morning, there was a strong wind blowing. Made steering a bit tough for the parachutist. Even so, most were able to hit their mark pretty close.

Trying to collapse the chute before it starts dragging him all over the runway!

Here they are all safe on the ground, packing up their chutes for transport.

A pair of T-6 Texan trainers pass in formation.

Follwed behind by a pair of T-34 Mentors.

As part of the trainers parade is this twin engined Beechcraft AT-7 Navigator. This plane is from Warbirds West Air Museum.

This is the T-28 Trojan trainer.

The T-6 showing the top side as it wags its wings during a pass.

Here's the other T-6, this one showing the CAF markings.

Last shot of the mentors as they pass with smoke on.

Bill Cornick tossing his Pitts Special through the sky!

An F-18 Hornet performs a tactical demonstration, here doing a low fast past.

The official web site had a Super Hornet listed, but I believe this is a 'regular' Hornet.

Here he is pulling up and to the left following a simulated 'bolted' landing on an aircraft carrier.

The T-33 Acemaker was also flying, and he did a great show!

Making several low and fast passes, Greg 'Wired' Colyer really wowed the crowd.

Here's Greg making his final low and fast pass.
If you want to get a feel of what it was like in the cockpit, Greg has a video of his El Centro performance here: T-33 Acemaker video

Spencer Suderman takes to the sky in his Pitts Special for an aerobatic routine.

The 'Longhorns' in their Seahawk helicopter performed a search and rescue demo.

Here's Maid in the Shade on a bombing pass. Note that the girls on the nose art on each side are different!

The P-51 flew alongside as escort.

El Centro's EOD did the honors for the pyro, and the 'wall of fire'.

Here's the P-51 and B-25 in rare formation - at least nowadays!

Boom! The big wall of fire!

As an added bonus, Metal Mulisha was there on their dirtbikes doing jumps and other stunts.

I was able to make my way there and take a few shots before the wind really picked up...

Which meant the end of the jumps. :-(
Too bad, as they looked like they really wanted to put on a good show, but it was just too dangerous to jump with the unpredictable winds. Here they are fiving the crowd. Look forward to seeing more of them in the future!

The C-17 was able to fly even with the strong winds.

Though it had to take and land on a different runway. Sadly, everybody was using the other runway for take offs and landings too, which was too far away for any decent pictures.

Viper West put on a Kick *ss demo with their F-16!

The F-16 was able to stay pretty close to the crowd, and made many high speed and spectacular passes.

The Viper is the undisputed king of vapor, and is able to squeeze some out even in the 30% or so humidity of El Centro.

Here he is pouring on the power after doing a slow high alpha pass.

Just had to include this high speed photo pass, with afterburners!

Towards the end of the pass, he was going so fast, and turning so hard there was even vapor forming on his wings!

The F-16 then joined up with the P-51 for the Heritage flight.

Really would like preferred a slower shutter on this, but the wind was just shaking the camera like a leaf!

Almost didn't catch this, as the F-16 came by for one last high speed pass after the Heritage flight broke up. I can almost feel the power and speed just looking at the picture!

Due to the high winds, some of the other acts cancelled. But the Blues pushed on!

This is a close up of the ground crew during engine start.

After a short warm up, #1 starts to roll out!

Here you can see just how far away the runway they were using was. This is at max zoom using the 500mm lens!

Due to the winds, the solos did not do their normal takeoff. Instead, they just separated after pulling up side by side.

The opening move had the Blues solos split from the main formation, and fly right over show center.

The solos then loop around and cross in front of the crowd.

The 4 ship formation then banks in from the right in a very tight diamond formation. 18" wingtip to canopy!

With the big Sigma lens, I was able to get some tighter shots.

Here's the solos crossing again, which I thought was a pretty decent capture.

As the 4 ships looped together, they are also rolling as a unit!

My best (most likey) crossing shot of the day!

The Fortus has the lead solo plane upside down.

The #5 plane zips by really close to start the...

Minimum radius turn!

This is known as the Double Farvel. The #1 and #4 plane are inverted.

The solos pass overhead in great light!

Stacked neatly are the 4 planes in the Echelon Parade.

Here's a close in look courtesy of the 500mm lens!

This was to be the opposing Horizontal rolls, but it was about this time that #6 developed some kind of plane problem. So no rolling on the cross. The #6 plane landed shortly after this. The show went on, though minus 1 plane (for a while).

Be ever watchful for the Left Echelon Roll, because...

The Sneak Pass is not far behind!

The wind was blowing hard towards the planes, which is too bad - since the audience could not hear as much of the jets. Low and fast, the Sneak pass is always something I look forward to!

Even the F-18s are able to generate a bit of vapor here as they break hard out of formation.

Here's #4 after roaring close overhead.

Having jumped in the spare #7 plane, the #6 pilot rejoins the formation and the Blues are up to full strength again!

Here they are in the spectacular Fleur de Lis break.

A shot of the #7 Blues Narrator LT C.J. Simonsen.

The Delta Breakout means the show is coming to a close soon.

And the Delta Pitch Up Break to Land is the last good look at them in the air.

Back on the ground, the Blues taxi back to the parking spots.

Here's a head on view of the #1 Flight Leader's plane.

The ground show is not over yet though, as the Blues still has the precision dismount to do!

After saluting the crowd, the 2010 Blue Angels congratulate each other for a job well done!

Introducing the 2010 Blue Angels:
Here's Blues #1, Commander Greg McWherter - who's from Atlanta, Ga.

Blues #2 (Right Wing), LT Jim Tomaszeski - from Orange Park, Fl.

Blues #3 (Left Wing), LT Rob Kurrle - from Statesville, NC.

Blues #4 (Slot), Maj Christopher Collins - from Darien, Conn.

Blues #5 (Lead Solo), LCDR Frank Weisser - also from Atlanta, Ga.

Blues #6 (Opposing Solo), LT Ben Walborn - from Reading, Pa.
Some may recall LT Walborn as the Blues narrator last year. I thought he did a superb job.
The normal Blues sequence for the solo pilots have them starting the #7 narrator position, then move to #6 opposing solo, then to the #5 lead solo.

LT Amy Tomlinson acts as the Blues Events Coordinator.

Capt Ben Blanton is one of the C-130 Blues pilots. The C-130 did not perform at El Centro, I believe due to mechanical issues.

Time to slowly make our way out. But a few last statics!
The Longhorns fly their SH-60F out of Fallon NAS.

The ever popular A-10 Warthog was there as a static display only.

The police were busy shooing people out, as some of the aircraft were starting up to depart.

Here's the demo Hornet heading out!

The Longhorn crew getting their helicopter ready to leave. Much as I wanted to hang around, I too was shooed out the gate. Sigh.

Here's the other AV-8B harrier on static display.

The traffic out was smoooooth as glass! No problems whatsoever! Here's a parting shot of NAF El Centro, which has a little park area at the entrance with some of the planes the Blue Angels flew on display. Pictured here is of course, their current F-18. Off screen to the left were a A-4, F-4, and an F-11. All in Blues colors!

Well, that's it for the El Centro show. Huge thanks to NAF El Centro, the Blues, and everyone who made this show possible and successful!